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Mentally ill man freed after spending 9 years on remand without a trial

HeadlineMentally ill man freed after spending 9 years on remand without a trial

“For a man to have spent 9 years on remand without a day of trial is an indictment on the prosecutorial system” —  attorney Kevin Arthurs

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Feb. 28, 2019– Luke McFadzean, a resident of Hattieville who was indicted on charges of attempted murder and use of deadly means of harm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, and has been on remand since 2010 at the Belize Central Prison, walked out of the Supreme Court of Justice Colin Williams on Monday morning, leaving his legal troubles behind.

McFadzean, 33, apparently fell into the cracks of the criminal justice system and has been languishing on remand indefinitely since he was charged on February 26, 2010, because he is a person who suffers from “moderate mental retardation and schizophrenia,” his psychiatric evaluation says.

McFadzean was accused of striking an off-duty police officer in the head with a piece of 2×4 lumber.

The accused man, however, had been diagnosed as being unfit to stand trial.

“He is not fit to stand the rigors of a court trial. That diagnosis is not changeable and will not improve over time,” said a court-appointed psychiatrist.

McFadzean, according to the legal guidelines, was unable to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, because he was not in possession of his full mental faculty to do so.

It took three years after McFadzean was first remanded to prison for the court to order that he be evaluated by a psychiatrist to determine his fitness to go on trial.

The examining doctor, Alejandro Matus Torres, MD, had written that, although (the patient) McFadzean was able to keep himself groomed in the prison and was cooperative, “his speech is not spontaneous nor norm productive. His comprehension and level of consciousness are not good. The patient is not able to give adequate information about himself or the case. He is not oriented with time, place and person. He is not aware of the different courtroom personnel and their respective roles.”

There is no facility in Belize for dealing with this kind of prisoner who is mentally ill, said the Human Rights Commissioner in Belize, Kevin Arthurs, who was attorney for McFadzean.

Arthurs expressed the view that to have someone who is mentally ill languish in prison for this extended period of time is an indictment of the prosecutorial system in Belize.

Arthurs said that, “persons with mental health disorders must be treated with humane appreciation for their condition.”

Arthurs added, “We have not only deprived him of his liberty, but have also deprived him of the proper care of his family and other agencies, simply because his rights were viewed as an afterthought. There is a safe and respectable way to treat, report and review the status of persons with mental disorders who run afoul of the laws. Luke’s case is a great example of how to get it all wrong.”

Arthurs referred to a section of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which establishes at Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

Arthurs has confirmed that McFadzean’s family plans to file a lawsuit because his basic rights have been violated. He said that even if he had been tried and was found guilty, it is unlikely that he would have spent such a long time in prison.

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